Why Do Estates Remain Unclaimed?

Mon 4th Dec 2017


To most people, the idea of an unclaimed estate seems alien. Why do houses, properties and money remain in limbo?

For the most part, this happens when someone dies and does not leave a valid will – otherwise known as dying intestate. Again, this is more common when a person has no near next of kin. That person might have outlived their spouse, and not have had children. Sometimes, people feel it isn’t worth the effort of making a will if they do not have close-by heirs to leave their worldly goods to.

However, a lack of close relatives doesn’t mean they do not have entitled beneficiaries. In some cases, this might include family members they have lost touch with or don’t know about. In terms of the laws of intestacy, lack of knowledge doesn’t disqualify someone. When a person dies intestate, probate genealogists look to the nearest relatives. This might cover siblings, and/or the families of siblings. It could spread to the maternal or paternal family tree.

In the worst-case scenario, an unclaimed estate will pass to the Crown, but the Crown and the legal process would rather see properties pass to the rightful heirs and only when this search has been exhausted, would it be the case that an unclaimed estate would go into such ownership.

In some parts of the country, unclaimed estates create a more significant problem than just rightful heirs missing out on their inheritance. Take Ireland, for example. In the last few years, Ireland has suffered an unprecedented housing crisis. Homelessness is at record levels, and the situation isn’t helped by the number of derelict and empty properties. Empty properties can be the result of the previous owner’s death, and the property not being passed on. The nearest relatives could live elsewhere, perhaps not even in Ireland.

If they did know of the property they are entitled to inherit, they could put it on the housing market. The Housing Agency in Ireland is making a point of buying derelict and empty properties so they can be sold to housing bodies in Ireland to ease homelessness. It’s an all-round win-win situation – heirs get to profit from the unclaimed estate, and the home is used once more.

Of course, the best solution to unclaimed estates is for people to make wills – no matter what their situation in life. But in the meantime, if you want to find out if you could be entitled to an estate, why not sign up for our FREE service where we email you the details of unclaimed estates every week?